Happy 5th Birthday Ellie!

My sweetest Ellie,

Happy birthday my princess. I cannot believe you are 5 today. I remember the day we met. You arrived on your daddy’s birthday, in a hurry. I should have known then how determined you would be. You completed our family and you keep us all in line.
You were a fierce baby, we called you our little bear for the first 2 years. I wasn’t sure you would ever sleep through the night, but you did. You wanted to be held everywhere we went. And then one day you didn’t. You use to be scared to go into the ocean, and then one time you ran into the waves. I blinked and you were 5.


You have so many wonderful attributes that make you unique. I love how driven you are. I love how creative you are. I love how you stand up for what you want and rarely let people change your mind. I love how kind you are to others, even strangers, when you sense they are sad. I love how confident and brave you are. Your sense of fashion is great, I hope you always keep me stylish.


My prayer for you is that you will continue to grow and love Jesus. I pray that you will always keep Him first in your life. I pray that you and Levi are always close, and that you always feel loved by me and dad. I pray every day for patience and guidance to strengthen your character. You are a light shining bright in my life. I thank God for you!

Happy birthday my love!

Love,
Mom

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Saying Yes to Hospitality

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel safe and heard and loved.  It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment” -Shauna Niequist.  Sometimes though, thanks to social media and Pinterest, it has become something that must be lavish, grand and splendid.  When presented with the opportunity to host people in my home, I immediately think of several excuses.  Time, how messy my house is, what will I prepare, will there be enough room, what if they don’t have a good time.  Those are just a few of my initial thoughts.  I could believe the lie that I don’t have enough time, my food isn’t fancy enough, and my house isn’t clean enough (ok, that one might be true).  But I believe availability trumps splendid.  And vulnerability trumps fancy.  And authenticity trumps cleanliness.

When I have the chance to invite others over, the first thing I do is simplify what I can.  I do what I’m capable of. If I am too overwhelmed to make a meal, I buy a prepared one at Costco and server it.  If I don’t have time to bake, I go to Trader Joe’s and buy a dessert, it tastes homemade.  I try not to let the little things stop me from engaging with others.  Although food always makes a get together better, the most important part of a gathering is fostering the relationships.  And that can happen regardless of where the food comes from.

The next thing I do is check my motives.  Am I doing this because it’s what God calls us to or for another reason?  There are several verses about hospitality in the Bible and all of them are commands to be hospitable, not suggestions.  My favorite of those verses is Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  If I am doing it for the right reason, I won’t get caught up with my fears and frets about my house and food.

I have also shifted my expectations when I host others.  In Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst, she talks about a shift she made that helped her change her focus in social settings.  “Here’s the secret shift we must make: Do I walk into situations prepared with the fullness of God in me, free to look to bless others? Or do I walk into situations empty and dependent on others to look for ways to bless me?  Being full of God’s love settles, empowers, and brings out the best of who we are. On the other hand, the more full of the flesh we are, the more we grab at anyone and anything to fill that ache for love and acceptance.”  If I am looking for ways to fill others up, the menial things loose their importance.

Those times I have felt most welcomed and accepted are when people opened up their homes and showed me who they really were.  They didn’t put on a front or a facade, they were real and authentic.  I don’t always remember what was served for dinner, but I always remember the connection and community.  And that is what I want to imitate.  It doesn’t have to be that hard, we just have to be willing.

Fall Priorities

Hallelujah for the new school year. Last week was our first week of school and it flew by. Both my kids are in school this year and it is a game changer. I told a friend it seems too good to be true, but they keep taking my kids when I drop them off, so I’m going with it!

I always feel so much pressure to make the most of my ‘kid-free’ time. I know I should be cleaning and doing laundry, but I really just want to sit and watch Netflix. Don’t judge, I’m still working on balancing things out. Here are 4 of the things I’m making a priority this fall.
Exercise. Over the summer, I was very inconsistent with my work-outs. But I am making it happen this school year. My running partner and I get out and run right after school drop off, before either of us can come up with excuses. I can tell a HUGE difference in my days when I get my run on.
Another marvelous habit I have started is eating a meal….wait for it…sitting down, in silence. Too often I get so busy making breakfasts and lunches for everyone else, I end of grabbing a bar and eating on the go. But I have been making it a priority to eat a well-balanced breakfast and drink a cup of coffee while it is still hot. It’s amazing how much better you feel after food.
I have also signed up for a Bible study this fall at church. It has been 2 years since I have done an organized study and I am really looking forward to the structured time of leaning and conversation with other moms.
And finally, I’m trying out this new concept called planning. I hear it’s helpful and can reduce stress. So I’m giving it a go. I procrastinated and was unprepared too many times last year so I knew I needed to put more effort into things. I am trying to plan ahead for lunches, dinner, soccer schedule, Awanas. It is a great feeling knowing what is coming during the week and not being caught off guard.
I’m can’t believe it’s already September. Fall decor is popping up all around. I look forward to the shift in rhythm and routine. As we slowly fade into a new season, I hope these new priorities will help the transition to be smooth and enjoyable.

Cleaning out the Clutter

I cleaned out my pool bag today, after an entire summer of almost daily swimming trips. It weighed about 25 pounds and was getting harder and harder to carry. In fact, it was so heavy, it made me not want to go to the pool, which is why I decided it was time to look inside. I found a numerous variety of snacks, 4 bottles of water, 1 can of La Croix, and 25 pool toys. The bottles of water and the snacks were from the beginning of summer. And we only played with 1 toy all year, a rubber football. You know why we didn’t eat the snacks or play with the other toys? We didn’t know they were there, underneath the clutter and mess. So I cleaned everything out. I simplified the toys. I switched out the snacks. I reduced the water bottles. And today, when we went to the pool, we knew there were fun toys to play with and new snacks to eat.
Sometimes this happens with our lives. We keep piling more and more into our schedules. We keep adding more and more into our daily routine. And before long, our days are heavy and our schedules are hard to carry. We worry and dread about how were going to get everything done.
I think this time of year is the perfect time to be purposeful and protective of our schedules. As we transition back into the routine of school, we have the opportunity to guard our calendars. By being selective and careful about what we add into our planners, we can reduce stress and actually enjoy our daily tasks. (The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst goes deep into this. I highly recommend it.)
Our hearts can become just like my pool bag. They can become crowded and congested with clutter. When we begin to unpack what’s weighing us down, we wonder where the mess came from. And when we begin to remember what’s underneath, we remember what inspires us and gives us joy. When we simplify our schedules we allow ourselves the opportunity to actually enjoy what we’re doing. We also set ourselves up to succeed and thrive in what we are doing, instead of just trying to survive.
Soon we’ll trade out the pool bags for back packs and gym bags. Our schedules will be filled with homework and practice. Let’s aim to keep our bags filled with the essentials and leave the clutter out. Lysa sums it up perfectly, “Every day we make choices. Then our choices make us”.  Like I tell my kids, let’s make good choices!

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Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom’s 70th birthday.  I am thankful I was able to celebrate with her during my visit to KC last month.  I asked her what she wanted for her birthday and she didn’t have anything specific in mind.  So we decided to take her to a baseball game.  In 100 degree heat.  Cause that’s what you do to show someone you love them.  We certainly made memories and managed to have a good time.

As I get older, I understand and appreciate my mom more and more.   Despite the fact that she was a single parent, she managed to be a stay-at-home mom also.  She has modeled what christianity and a prayer-warrior looks like.  She encouraged me early on to make bible reading a daily habit.   She has a heart to help the elderly and the sick.  I can remember many visits to nursing homes that ended with us singing for the residents.  She also has a strong sense of justice and a unique way of helping where she can.  She started doing foster care when I was in high school.  And more recently, she hosted a foreign exchange student from China for 2 years.img_3878.jpg

Even though I wasn’t interested in learning, she tried to teach me how to cook.  She is a pro at taking leftovers and making them into something amazing.  (Matt thinks this is her best quality)  She is the queen of garage sales and thrift shops, you would be impressed with the bargains she scores.  She regularly rearranges the furniture in her house and might do the same when she comes to visit.  (She did rearrange our furniture while we were gone for a night)

We don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but I am so thankful for the relationship I have with my mom.  I admire and appreciate the sacrifices she has made. And I love the special relationship she now has with my kids.  They absolutely love Grammy.   Happy Birthday Mom!

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Silly Levi

Learning through the summer

Happy August!  I just want to let you know I’m still alive.  Having little people around me constantly translates into zero writing opportunities.   But I’m taking a minute to steal away and reflect on the summer thus far.  Although school is out, the learning continues, maybe more for me than the kids.  We are discovering valuable life lessons every week.  IMG_5246

At the top of the list is managing expectations. This is a weekly, sometimes daily lesson that, for some reason, is quickly forgotten.  Why can’t we just go into everything with absolutely no expectations?  Wouldn’t that make things easier?  Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen and so we have to learn to adapt and go with the flow.

We are also learning how our family works best as a team, how we all have a role to play and job to do.   My kids have certain tasks around the house they are expected to do.  When they choose to complain about doing them, I try to encourage them and point out how valuable their job is.  It makes us stronger as a family and lightens the burden of housework.

We are (trying) to navigate how to spend massive amounts of family-time together and still like each other.  Tucked inside of this is another lesson; how powerful our words are.  Sometimes we say things we regret after So.  Much.  Time.  Together.  And although we can apologize, the sting of our words can linger.

Additionally, we are practicing being thankful and content.   Often times, the more my kids get to do, the more they want.  So that might mean we pull away and spend the day at home, remembering how it is a privilege when we get to do fun activities, not a right.  Let’s nip that entitlement in the bud right now! IMG_5065

Since my last post and our ‘summer reset’, we have been doing a better job of enjoying our summer break.  While I was writing this, I asked both of my kids what they have learned this summer.  Levi said, “Not to use rude words” and Ellie said, “Jesus”.  That’s my girl, when in doubt, the answer is always Jesus.

Summer reset

Can I be honest with you? My summer isn’t going exactly as I had pictured. Before school finished, I had the summer all planned out. I was going to be the cool, laid-back mom who went with the flow and wasn’t strict on bedtime. We were going to have quality family time, making lots of memories. Then… we had a fun, but exhausting family trip- 10 days of ‘quality family time’.

I became a referee, constantly breaking up arguments between my kids. It took me a solid week to get caught up on sleep. (Here’s another confession; I cannot function without sleep. I am a horrible version of myself when I don’t get enough rest.) Then, just as I thought things were on the upswing, my 7 year-old started waking up several times a night, too afraid to sleep. Why???
So I slipped down into a cycle of self-pity, followed by a round of regret. I regret that I try to steal another hour of sleep instead of getting up and having a quiet time. I regret that  I use harsh words with my kids because of my lack of sleep (that they caused). I regret that I sit at home instead of going for that run. The problem with self-pity is that it’s completely self-centered. I was so focused on my feelings that I wasn’t balancing it with truth.
So I spent some time in the Truth, letting it wash over me and remind me that this is just a season. I don’t have the answer on how to cure night-time scares and I don’t know when it will pass. But I do know I will look back on him waking up and remember it as a phase, just like so many others. Even if these circumstances are out of my control, how I choose to handle them is completely up to me. I can stop my pity-party and choose to enjoy the rest of the summer. I can start fresh tomorrow and forgo the regrets. I can apologize for my words and choose better ones.
This is the beauty of grace. Even when we have been consumed with ourselves, God is quick to forgive and welcome us back with open arms. I view this as my midsummer reset, a perfect opportunity to readjust my focus. I am so glad that God’s love is new and fresh each day.

Saying Yes to the Job

I remember sitting on our green velvet couch (a garage sale find), in our rented duplex, the day Matt came home from a college job fair.  He asked how I felt about moving to Omaha after graduation.  I thought it sounded like a fun adventure and was totally onboard.  10 years ago, the weekend after graduation, we rented a small U-Haul, and headed 5 hours north.  We rented a small townhouse in a part of town that in hindsight, probably wasn’t in the best area.  But it worked for us.

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Matt’s first day of work

It was such an exciting time and we quickly found a church, friends, community.  I found an amazing job.  And we were able to buy a brand new couch, from a real furniture store.  We bought a sectional that was so big, it hardly fit in our townhouse.  But we said goodbye to the green, velvet, garage sale special.  We had it made.

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College World Series

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When I recall all the connections and relationships we made, I see God in every detail.

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Small group= amazing friends
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Amazing boss and coworkers

Although we were only there for 2 years, we put down deep roots.  I’m not sure what we were expecting 10 years ago when we said yes to our first move.  We were young and naïve.  But I can honestly say I  wouldn’t change a thing.  The many moves, the constant change, the stepping out in faith, has helped shape me into the person I am today.  There are certain things you learn only when your comfort zone is ripped away.  It is then you have to decide where you are going to stake your identity and purpose.

It can be difficult to go through life, not knowing how long you will live in a certain area.  It can be tempting to put up walls and keep people at arms length.  It can feel isolating and lonely.  But you always have a choice.  And friendship and community is a choice, even though it might not be forever.  A good friend encouraged me to put down roots with people, not places.  When I look at it through that lens, I have put down many roots, rich roots.  Roots I never would have been able to put down had I lived in one place my whole life.  While it hurts when I move or others move away, I know that I’m fortunate to have met so many great friends.

The past 10 years have been many things, adventure filled, exciting, trying, frustrating.  But most importantly, they have deepened our trust in God. (DISCLAIMER: we  are NOT moving or leaving Kiewit, this is just in celebration of Matt’s 10 years with the company)

Celebrating Father’s Day

It has been 8 years since I’ve had the chance to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad.  As I walk through stores this time of June, it’s hard to miss the displays of gifts for Father’s Day.  I find myself wondering what I would get my dad this year, if he were still here to celebrate.  When I see a unique gift or gadget, I’m curious if my dad would have liked it.

We always made a big deal about Father’s Day.  My dad loved a good party and enjoyed seeing what we would plan for him.   One year, my brother and I took him out on a pontoon boat and ended it with steaks on the grill.  Another year, my sister and I planned a seafood boil for him.  We had crawfish, shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn.  He joked how he would eat seafood for every meal, given the chance.  Still another time we planned a fun brunch at a restaurant downtown.  The owner was a chef we enjoyed watching on TV.  Whatever we chose to do, it always revolved around food.

These days, my kids and I spend Father’s Day celebrating and honoring their dad.

I know how hard and how important a dad’s role is.  That’s why I am so thankful my kids have a dad who loves God, works hard to provide, shows up, loves to spend time as a family, spends hours playing catch with Levi and treats Ellie like a princess.

This Father’s Day, no matter what season in life you are, whether your earthly dad is still here or not, and regardless if he is or was a good dad, we all have a Father to celebrate. We have a Dad who we matter to, One who sees us, One who cherishes us, and One who will never let us down.  And regardless if this is a happy holiday or a hard one, we can be confident that we are wrapped in the unconditional love of the Good, Good Father.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

My summer must haves

Now that summer is unofficially here, bring on the warm days spent outside!  Summer is absolutely my favorite.  I can easily fall into the slower rhythm of life, days spent outside, lounging by the pool.   I have some favorite items that are perfect for summer time.

First is my new water bottle, that I might be a bit obsessed with, my S’well bottle.  I love how cold it keeps my water and it easily fits into my purse or pool bag.  It never leaks and never sweats.  I slip a couple of lime slices into my water for nice flavor and encouragement to stay hydrated.IMG_4332

 

 

 

 

 

A friend gave me a Shop | Strands beach towel as a gift and I love it!  It is huge, absorbent, and super soft.  I use it as a blanket at the beach and the weighted tassels keep it from blowing around.  It can be washed easily and folds up in a neat bag.  The cute  design is just a bonus

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Havaianas flip flops are my favorite, I wear them every day in the summer.  They are so comfortable and lightweight.  If you come to visit me, I may or may not take you to the Havaianas shop in Huntington Beach where you can custom make a pair.   I recently saw that Havaianas now has sunglasses, so naturally I needed some.  The sides are made of rubber and are very flexible, not too tight.  They have several cute styles and colors.

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Sun Bum is a great product line.   All of their products smell like you are vacationing on a tropical island.  I have used their sunscreen, hair products and chapstick and I love them all. Image result for sun bum sunscreen

 

 

 

 

I’ve been using Not Your Mother’s styling spray, on those days when it’s too dang hot to blow dry your hair.  It helps reign in the crazy waves I have.  They have several products for whatever hair type you have.

Finally, one of my favorite nail colors right now is Essie’s Mint Candy Apple.  It is a fun switch from the pinks and reds I normally wear.

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I hope your summer is off to a great start.  Let me know what some of your favorite summer items are!